Homelessness Task Force panel questions the removal of an agenda item from the Public Safety Director

To start off the Homeless Task Force meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15, Task Force member Wayne Cohen questioned why certain items were removed from the agenda. 

“Staff makes decisions on agenda items regularly, so it’s not an abnormal thing,” Public Safety Director Susan Dueñas said. 

In the last Homeless Task Force meeting on Oct. 18, commissioners shared their frustrations with not receiving enforcement from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department on parking ordinances and illegal camping along Pacific Coast Highway. 

Task Force member Scott Dittrich motioned to increase enforcement of codes, ordinances, and laws related to illegally parked vehicles, and authorize utilization of the crime suppression car for this purpose. Task Force Member Terry Davis seconded the motion, and the motion passed 8-0. 

“The agenda is missing an item; specifically, there was suppose to be something on it that included the motion in the last meeting that was passed by this committee,” Task Force member Bill Sampson said. “It was wrongfully taken, Susan (Dueñas) informed me that she took it off internally, [but] nobody was notified in advance.”  

In the same Oct. 18 meeting, the Fire, Health, and Public Safety Ad Hoc Committee Report was revised and included the following: 

  • All motor vehicle violations, especially unsafe vehicles, and operation of vehicles without insurance, as injury and death is an unacceptable byproduct of operating unsafe machinery.
  • Violations must be met with appropriate consequences, otherwise there is no deterrence 
  • Overnight parking & oversized vehicle regulations and CLOSE loopholes in parking ordinances and signage
  • Implement and coordinate parking “sweeps” to send a strong message
  • Advance Identification of tow-eligible vehicles to ensure proper tow vehicles available
  • Distribute flyers with “Help” phone numbers, safe parking locations to Sheriffs and VOPs to hand out to the unhoused
  • Increase use of MET resources
  • No Camping in VHFDZ
  • Continue to identify and clear illegal encampments
  • Clear all debris from evacuated encampments
  • Hold MRCA, State and Federal Parks accountable in sweeps of their lands
  • Include stakeholders and volunteers in identifying encampments
  • Provide a City Hotline phone number to report issues

The report also says, “Malibu has done everything that has been recommended to them to facilitate enforcement.”

  • We have raised the fines on oversized vehicles (first $100, second $200, third and over $500)
  • We spent $1,500,000.00 on a 3rd LASD car
  • We purchased electronic ticket writers

Over Labor Day weekend alone, over 300 illegally parked vehicles were NOT ticketed.

Over Sunday Night 9.10 into Monday 9.11 there were 123 vehicles and 35 RVs counted from Corral east to Topanga. The loss of revenue to the city from these unticketed vehicles is substantial and does not help defer revenues spent on acquisition of that third vehicle. We want to partner and support but LASD MUST do their jobs.

Dueñas explained why the agenda item was removed.

“I apologize I should’ve been more direct in our last meeting. This agenda item is not within your charter and it really doesn’t merit to even be an agenda item,” Dueñas said. “The task force has not been (in) charge with figuring out legal remedies for getting the sheriff’s department to do what you want them to do.” 

Task Force member Kelly Pessis disagreed with the removal and said it does involve homeless individuals and traffic safety. 

“I hear you, Susan, and I completely respect where you’re coming from, but I disagree,” Pessis said. “Our charter is to look at ways of reducing homelessness in Malibu and I don’t think you can have that discussion without enforcement or without discussion of parking. Our majority of our homeless are motor homeless, and I think to have this removed after we voted on it — we can discuss it.” 

Cohen said ignoring and removing an item from the agenda is inappropriate, and it shuts down transparency, resolution, and discussion.

“You have individuals here who are serving on a committee and who are residents of the City of Malibu and you unilaterally made the decision despite a motion to remove an agenda item,” Cohen said. “That agenda item, among other things, led to a discussion about the contract that exists between the city of Malibu and LASD (Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station).” 

Dueñas corrected herself and said she meant to say “postponed,” rather than remove the item. Dueñas also said she had no information about what was being motioned so she didn’t put it in a staff report. 

“As I said before, when we’re doing staff reports, I need information weeks prior and it’s on me because we didn’t reach out to you (Task Force members) either,” Dueñas said.

Cohen said he respects and acknowledges the work the city has done but hopes to agendize the item. 

Dueñas hopes to meet with Cohen and the rest of the task force members to better understand what is being asked.

“I would like to talk to you and better understand what it is so that we can write a staff report and that I can get some input from Trevor (Rusin, Interim City Attorney) too because it is my job to make sure we stay within our lane,” Dueñas said. “As long as Steve (McClary, city manager) and the city attorney are fine with it, I’m fine with it.”

The panel motioned to deny the agenda and the meeting adjourned. 

The next Homeless Task Force meeting is scheduled for Dec. 20.

Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo is an inspiring photojournalist based in Los Angeles California. She began her journalism career at Pierce College Media Arts Department. Twitter @samanthavbravo

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